Sunday, 5 December 2010

Iford Manor - Harold Peto's intriguing English garden

I promised to continue with my alphabet listings and here's my "I" offering - Iford Manor in Wiltshire. To be honest, there aren't many gardens beginning with this letter, and I've never done a full posting on Harold Peto's garden, even though I've featured other gardens he's associated with. This garden is as theatrical as any I've seen (including The Laskett) with its extraordinary statues and monuments acquired during Peto's travels abroad, during his time as an architect. But it's also interesting, intriguing and inspiring.
The Manor House - cloaked in wisteria in May - overlooks a valley and the River Frome
Harold Peto grew up at Somerleyton Hall on the Suffolk Coast; he trained as an architect alongside Edwin Lutyens, and later formed a partnership with Ernest George; and finally bought Iford Manor for himself in 1899. But it is gardens that he is remembered for, rather than his buildings, including Buscot Park, where he designed the stepped water garden; Easton Lodge in Essex, which is currently being restored and another "I" in Ireland - Ilnacullin, which I have yet to see; and the magnificent pergola at West Dean.
Peto was born in 1854. His father was a civil engineer, who made and lost a fortune in Victorian times, but is probably best known for Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. Harold trained, travelled and worked as an architect in the intervening years before moving to Iford Manor in Wiltshire at the end of the 19th century and he then remained here until the end of his life in 1933. The house is in an idyllic, although tricky garden situation - built into the side of a steep hill and overlooking a valley. However, it's been designed to show off his statues and stage settings to full effect and is now a private house (not open), that shares this historic garden with the public on selected week days during the summer months. It is entirely due to the present owners that this garden is in such immaculate condition.

Peto had always been an active traveller and in 1898 he visited Japan, where the gardens obviously had a profound influence on him since he returned to the UK and created a Japanese garden at his own home (below) and at Easton Lodge in Essex.

The garden at Iford Manor is a stunning example of an Italianate garden, where Peto combined planting with architecture. It's hillside setting and difficult approach to the property (which requires steely nerves even by English standards!), makes you wonder how he managed to transport all his holiday momentos back to the Manor when he finished his travels. You can see from the photographs on the left that these include full colonnades and large sculptures, and he also built the Cloister to house some of his mosaics and smaller artefacts

In his manuscript "The Boke of Iford", published posthumously,  Harold Peto. says: "Old buildings or fragments of masonry carry one's mind back to the past in a way that flowers cannot do. Gardens that are too stony are equally unsatisfactory; it is the combination of the two in just proportion which is the the most satisfying." And he spent the latter part of his life implementing his words at Iford, where you see how he combined plants and architecture.
The Japanese Garden at Iford Manor 
Today Iford is not just a garden that opens to the public (every day except Monday and Friday during the May-October season), but is also home to the annual Iford Arts Festival, which hosts opera and jazz events in an idyllic setting during the summer months. But even if you can't make it for one of the evening concerts, this is an absolute "MUST SEE" garden - there's nothing else like it anywhere!
The secret garden at Iford - you get tantalising glimpses of it from the bridge over the River Frome

10 comments:

  1. I love the floating mass of wisteria in front of the house.

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  2. The Laskett has been on my bucket list for a long time - this is clearly another one for the list - magical!

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  3. Breathtaking! Love the pergola and the colors in the picture of the Manor house and wisteria.

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  4. Dear Charlotte, A 'must see' indeed! One day ...

    Pamela x

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  5. I have to say that I am glad that there was only one I garden. We got to see so many more photos and hear so much more about. There isn't a single garden you've discussed that I wouldn't want to hear more about. Carolyn

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  6. This is called a true garden.very natural beauty.
    -log kiosk

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  7. I cant believe how many gardens you have visited. Heres another for my list and thank you for sharing your photos and giving us a background to the garden

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  8. This really is quite an astounding place. A must see if only I could. Thanks for the virtual tour.

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  9. Dear Charlotte,

    Many thanks indeed for all your kind words and beautiful images.

    You caught us on a nice day, which was fortunate, (although I personally love the way that all the colours intensify after a cloudburst in evergreen gardens). You might be interested to know that we have a blog at Iford too: http://ifordians.blogspot.com

    Do drop in again if you are ever passing by!

    Very best regards,

    William (of the Iford Manor team)

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  10. So many wonderful ideas to steal :-)

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